08.25.00 - www.fakejazz.com - Review: Sweeder - Swallowed By the Sun - by Jim Steed

Sweeder´s debut, Swallowed by the Sun, is a pretty little record for pretty little people. The band is made up of ex-couple and longtime bandmates Jeff Carleton and Chiyoko Yoshida along with Julie Liu. Remember the song on Anahata with female vocals? Well, that was Yoshida. And remember the guest violinist from every indie record in the past five years? Probably an 80% chance that was Liu (most notably Rex). Sweeder´s music covers a few different styles, taking influences from genres like shoegaze, twangy slowcore, and post-punk, but mixing these influences only minutely.

All three band members contribute vocals, but perhaps the band would like to rethink that as Yoshida´s vocals are strong enough to carry the team on their own. When Carleton´s voice steps in, he sometimes gets in the way. When it works, it reminds me of Rainer Maria in that the voices aren´t exactly harmonious but they still match in a charming way. In most songs, Yoshida´s vocals are forefront; her voice is throaty and expressive, somewhat similar to Carol van Dijk of Bettie Serveert or a calmer Tori Amos.

The album is severed in half by a two minute post-punk song, "All I Can Be," that is somewhat out of character for the band, based on the other 7 songs. That is not to say it is a bad song though--it is sufficiently good and inspired me to put on some Team Dresch records so how can that be bad--but it does muddle with the flow of this short (36 minute) record.

The three songs before "All I Can Be" take a strong influence from pop-oriented shoegazer bands and are the best three songs on the album. "Thread and Wire" starts with a bass and drum section with off-center male/female vocals that organically rise into and out of the heart of the song, a call response between a guitar phrase and Yoshida singing "Miss you now, miss you now" followed by some siren-like cooing. The next song, "Filters," also starts off quiet, focusing mainly on Yoshida´s wallowing, tortured, and trilling vocals. The song plods along until building into another syrupy but effective chorus.

"Wake," on the second half of the album, is similar to these three songs. At this point, you may notice the trend of Sweeder´s songs starting off quiet and building into the chorus, and "Wake" also follows this trend but starts off faster paced and a bit fuller. The incremental change in fullness leading into the chorus remains constant though, as "Wake"´s chorus of "Now I´m flying backwards" is a sugary marshmallow peep of a chorus, meaningless and over the top but oh so cute and chewy.

The other songs on the second half delve into other territories. "Sfity" takes its foundation on a stammering but flowing post-rock-like bass groove. Similar grooves appear in other songs, but on this one, when vocals, organ, guitar, and violin (unfortunately Liu´s violin is only a supporting player in these songs) are added, they accent the groove, not dominate it, the more moody chorus continuing the flow, not sending it into the stratosphere. All the songs have a Rex or Low-like slowcore bent, but it is most prominent in "Remember Lovely," a country song that almost unknowingly evolves into a spacey atmosphere.

Sweeder has set the bar for themselves high with their debut. Lush, dense, evocative, and pretty, this is a wonderful record.

contact sweeder by email: [email protected]

contact sweeder by mail: Sweeder . 1658 N. Milwaukee Ave . PMB 151 . Chicago . IL . 60647